A quick look at the India- Australia Test exchanges over the years reveal one distinct highlight — Indian off-spinners’ success rate.
Perveez Rasool’s success against the Aussies in a warm- up game in Chennai, where he finished with seven wickets shows that the visitors continue to be vulnerable against off-spinners.
Rasool, who has had a successful Ranji season for Jammu and Kashmir, bagged seven for 45 for Board President’s XI in the two- day game that ended in a draw on Wednesday.
Starting from 1959- 60, when Jasubhai Patel tormented the Aussies in Kanpur to Harbhajan Singh’s exploits in the 2000- 01 series, Indian off- spinners have often had an upper hand. It was due to Harbhajan’s impressive record against Australia that the selectors picked him for the first two of the four Tests, beginning on February 22 in Chennai, despite his off-colour performances.
Erapalli Prasanna, arguably one of the best off- spinners India has produced, had the Aussies on the ropes twice over. Incidentally, of the four prominent Indian off-spinners who have held sway against Australia, Prasanna is the only one who has excelled in Australia too.
Ask Prasanna about the reasons for Aussies being relatively weak against Indian off- spinners, and he says it’s largely got to do with their domestic cricket set- up,“They feel comfortable against leg- spinners as they have had good leg- spinners, like Shane Warne. They don’t have quality off- spinners back home. It’s like we don’t have good fast bowlers and we don’t play well against fast bowlers on good pitches,” Prasanna told Mail Today. Prasanna, 72, recalled the two series in which he excelled, in the 1967- 68 series in Australia and in 1969- 70 in India. “I always bowled well against any type of batsmen and in our generation the bowlers were attacking,” he says rather modestly, preferring not to talk about himself.
But legendary left- arm spinner Bishan Singh Bedi, a great admirer of Prasanna was a lot more forthcoming with his praise,“It’s difficult to say how great a bowler Prasanna was; he was a genius. I was fortunate that I played with him,” Bedi told Mail Today. Bedi concurred with Prasanna on why Indian offies have succeeded against Aussies. “There’s no particular reason to explain this. I think they don’t have good, quality off-spinners in their ranks,” he averred. He disclosed that when Prasanna would practice, he would keep a close eye on him.
“When he would bowl, the ball would make a whizzing sound as it left his hand. I used to observe him very minutely to know what he did. He kept batsmen guessing all the time. His mind games were not vocal; they were practical,” Bedi outlined.
In 49 Tests, Prasanna bagged 189 wickets, and 57 of those came against Australia, the country he was most successful against. Of his 10 five-wicket hauls, he took five against Australia — again the most against any of the five countries he played.
Before Prasanna, Jasubhai Patel famously tossed and teased the Richie Benaud-led Australians at Green Park, Kanpur, for his career-best, 14-wicket haul to spin India to victory. His nine for 69 in the first innings remained India’s best figures for almost 40 years, until Anil Kumble took all 10 against Pakistan in Delhi in 1999.
The other telling performance came from Shivlal Yadav, who was on top of his game in the 1979- 80 home series, capturing 24 wickets in five Tests.
Harbhajan made his mark in the historic 2000- 01 series against Steve Waugh’s team, bagging a hat- trick in his 13- wicket haul in Kolkata, spinning India to victory, along with VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid.